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Elizabeth Fort

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Title: Elizabeth Fort  
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Subject: South Parish, Cork, Siege of Cork, History of Cork, Cork (city), Ballyvolane, Cork City
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Elizabeth Fort

Elizabeth Fort
Cork, Ireland
Elizabeth Fort – Map – 1866
Elizabeth Fort circa 1866
Type star fort
Site information
Controlled by Cork City Council
Open to
the public
Partial (Walls open Tuesday to Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 12-5)[1]
Site history
Built 1601 (1601)
Battles/wars Siege of Cork 1690

Elizabeth Fort is a 17th-century star fort off Barrack Street in Cork, Ireland.[2] Originally built as a defensive fortification on high-ground outside the city walls, the city eventually grew around the fort, and it took on various other roles – including use as a military barracks, prison, and police station.[3] As of January 2014, the fort is under development as a tourism heritage site.[4] The walls of the fort have been accessible to the public on a regular basis since September 2014.


Elizabeth Fort was first built in 1601 on a hill to the south and outside the medieval walls of Cork. This position was chosen because, while the city had relied on Shandon Castle and the city walls for defence since Queen Elizabeth I.[3]

This original fort was built of timber and earth, and within a few years was pulled down by the citizens of Cork.[6] Fearing that the fort might be used against them by James I during the Tudor conquest of Ireland, the mayor and people of Cork demolished the fort in 1603. Cork was retaken however by Lord Mountjoy and the fort was rebuilt.[7]

This early construction took place on the site of an existing church.[8][9] This Hiberno-Norman-period church dated from at least the High Middle Ages and appears in documents and maps as "St Mary del Nard" (1199), or "Holy Cross del Nard" (1311).[10][8][11] In John Speed's map of Cork (1610) "Holy Roe"[11] church is marked within the walls of the (then) newly finished fort.[12]

The basic structure of the current fort has its basis in reconstructions dating from 1624[2] to 1626,[6] and in works reputedly carried out under Cromwell in 1649.[3] Any remnants of the previous church were removed in these reconstructions.[8]

In 1690, during the Williamite War in Ireland, Cork was a Jacobite stronghold, and while Elizabeth Fort held out for some time during the siege of Cork, artillery was brought to bear on the eastern walls of the city from a vantage point at Red Abbey. The walls were breached and the city capitulated within four days.[13] In the decades following the siege, the fort ceased to operate as a defensive structure for the city, and in 1719 was put to use as a barracks.

In 1817, it was re-purposed again – this time as a prison,[3][5] with many prisoners being held here before "transportation" to New South Wales and other British colonies.[14] It was mostly female prisoners held within the fort from 1822 onwards. The fort remained in use as a convict depot until 1837.

A northern wall of Elizabeth Fort on high-ground over residential city streets

In the late 19th century, the fort reverted to military use and became a station of the Cork City Artillery.[14] During the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921), Elizabeth Fort was used as a base by the "Black and Tans", but was relinquished by the British following the Anglo-Irish Treaty. During the succeeding Irish Civil War the fort was burned by anti-treaty forces in August 1922.[15]

The remaining interior structures of the fort date from a rebuild following this fire. Several of these interior buildings continued in use as a Garda (police) station, until 2013.[16] Following the closure of the Garda station buildings, the site came under the management of Cork City Council[16] and Office of Public Works.[17]


As an continually active military and police barracks for more than 400 years, Elizabeth Fort had not been open for tourism or heritage development. However, local interest groups and site stakeholders (namely the Gardaí, Cork City Council and Office of Public Works) had facilitated the development of the ramparts - which were partly opened to access by tourists on a seasonal basis.[18][17] Markets and festivals were also occasionally held in the fort.[19]

Since the closure of the Garda station and other offices on the site,[17] local historical interest groups and councillors had advocated the further and permanent development of the site for tourism.[16] In January 2014 the site was fully and formally passed to the control of Cork City Council to facilitate this development under a three-year plan.[20][4]

As of 2015, the walls of the fort are open to the public six days a week; Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 to 17:00 and Sunday 12:00 to 17:00.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ a b c d
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ a b OPW plaque at the fort
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b "Rood", "Roe", and "Cross" in these names are synonymous. Bradley et al contend that "Nard" is a corruption of the Irish "An Ard" meaning "height" - referring to the site's hill-top position. Windele, Gibson and others describe the church as dedicated to "Mary of the Spikenard" (Mary of Bethany or Mary Magdalene) who anointed the feet of Jesus with spicknard/spikenard/(ointment).
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b c
  17. ^ a b c
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^

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